The province of Huelva is Andalusia’s secret gem just begging to be discovered. Its wide, white, sandy beaches are perhaps among the best in Europe and two thirds of Huelva is designated national park, yet the region remains largely off the tourist trail. Andalusia’s most westerly province draws much inspiration from its glorious past and its epic natural surroundings.
Huelva city, the capital of the province, is located at the mouth of the Odiel river, a marshy area where numerous itineraries depart leading to the protected reserve in the province. The city has many lovely monuments and in the old quarter are narrow streets and small squares where is it possible to sit and enjoy the peace and sunshine.
The Museo Provincial de Huelva displays Roman artefacts showing the importance the city had in that period and there is a room devoted to the discovery of America. There is also information on the history of the nearby Rio-Tinto mines where iron and copper are still extracted today. The city even has a British district, the Queen Victoria neighbourhood, built to a British design in the early 20th century to house workers at the Rio Tinto mines.
The Marismas del Odiel is a natural environment of marshes of great importance to migratory birds and Palos de la Frontera is where Columbus set sail in three ships for the New World. The Monastery La Rabida is where he spent his last night before starting out on his journey to the New World.
The Donana National Park is located primarily in Huelva province and the coast is full of unspoiled beaches of white sand, pine forests and the area known as the Vera, a land in transition between two ecosystems.
In Sanlucar de Barrameda the Donana can be entered aboard a boat which makes the journey between both banks. The Donana is a paradise for nature lovers and for centuries was linked to the Duchy of Medina Sidonia and Alba. Deer, fallow deer and wild boar roam this protected reserve and the Iberian Lynx has its last refuge in the Donana.
The Sierra de Aracena y Los Picos de Aroche Natural Park encompasses 184,000 hectares, 90% covered by woodland of mainly Mediterranean oak. There is a rich and varied wildlife and the landscape is full of contrast with gently rolling hills and wooded valleys gradually giving way to dramatic rocky outcrops on high peaks.
The white washed towns and villages, often huddled round a large church or castle, are dotted around the Sierra and the area is only one hour from Seville.
There are centuries old drover's paths making it easy to explore the region on foot and the area is famous for raising the black Iberian pigs, which can be seen everywhere, particularly under holm oak trees, where they search for acorns which give the ham its distinctive flavor.
Jabugo is the village with the most sought after ham and where the biggest ham producer, Sanchez Romerao Caravjal, is found.
Aracena is the largest town in the Parque Natural Sierra de Aracena y Picos de Aroche. The Portuguese drove the Moors out of Aracena in 1251 before handing the town over to the Castillians in 1267. The Knights Templar controlled the town until 1312 when the Order was dissolved.
Aracena is famous for its limestone caves, the Gruta de las Maravillas, (the Cave of Marvels), one of the biggest caves in Spain. There are twelve caves underneath the castle hill with underground lakes and dramatic limestone formations and they are open to visitors.
North east of the town is the Embalse de Aracena reservoir where you can picnic on the shores and cool off in the summer shade by gall oaks and have a dip in the lake.
Alajar at the foot of the Pena Arias Montano is the site of many old legends full of mystery recounted by the townspeople. Higuera de la Sierra, Zufre and Santa Olalla del Cala are living examples of architecture in the region.
The village of Cortegana has a Mudejar church that has been declared a National Monument and on the way to Almonaster la Real a succession of towns and villages are found on the steep slopes. The road starts at Almonaster and leads to Santa Ana la Real, a white town that embodies all the regions of Arab character.
Come and discover Huelva province where you will be amazed at what it has to offer, you will certainly not be disappointed.